Rigoletto, Opera by G. Verdi
How long can you support a corrupt and immoral regime until you yourself fall victim to it? Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto explores the peril of double standards and the enablement of evil in ways that make the opera timeless. The opera’s inaugural performance on 11 March 1851 at Teatro La Fenice in Venice was an indubitable success, and it continues touching a nerve with new generations of audiences around the world to this day. This season, Rigoletto comes back ‘home’ to Gran Teatro La Fenice, and its themes and shocking twists are as relevant as ever before.
Librettist Francesco Maria Piave adapted the irreverent play Le Roi s’amuse by French writer Victor Hugo which had seen but one theatrical performance before being banned outright for sparking antiroyalist sentiments. Verdi and Piave, therefore, were forced to adjust the text in a number of ways in order to pass the stern review of the censors. Instead of a king, the opera’s primary mover is the luscious Duke of Mantua, and Rigoletto, his hunchback jester, is the anti-hero. He watches gleefully as his master takes advantage of his court women one by one and never misses a chance to deride their husbands and fathers.
While Rigoletto is quick to add insult to injury, he also suffers from a serious case of double standards: a bitter joker at work, at home he is the loving and protecting father of Gilda, his only daughter whom he has raised in total isolation from the court’s depravity. Of course, it is only a matter of time until the Duke discovers the young maiden and puts his hands on her. This final act of debauchery, however, set off a chain of dramatic and irreversible events. In the end, will the jester still have the last laugh?
Rigoletto’s engaging plot and the numerous intrigues that build the libretto inspired Verdi to create an avantgarde score that pulsates with the story’s tensions and twists. Among the many stellar solo spots and ensembles, pay attention to Duke Mantua’s ‘La donna è mobile’ which has rightfully become one of the Maestro’s best-known arias.